Friday, January 7, 2011

Retro Writing Myths Friday

(Every Friday, that I remember, I post a song from a classic rock band of my youth. Sometimes I include thoughts. Sometimes I’m lucky to remember to even post.)

Yeah, I know, it’s been a couple of weeks since I did a Retro Friday. And with all the cool games suggestions, it may be another month before I do it again.

I thought we’d go with some Doobie Brothers today. If you are old enough to know who the band is, you are old enough to know what the name means. And if not, you probably shouldn’t know anyway. So we won’t go into that. But they have been one of my favorite bands since I started listening to Rock. The band got together in the late 1960’s and first built up their popularity by regularly playing for the Hells Angels. You have to be either really cool or really tough to reach fame by starting out playing for biker gangs.

Doobie Brothers—What a Fool Believes

In honor of their song, “What a Fool Believes,” I thought I’d clear up six myths about writing.    

1) Probably the biggest myth about writing is that all authors are rich. Actually only a tiny percentage of authors make a fulltime living writing. I heard that there are more people in the US making a living playing baseball than writing novels. I was at a conference with Fablehaven author, Brandon Mull, and he was asked what a writer should tell her family when they told her to get a job. His answer was, “Well, first, get a job.” Not that you can’t make a living writing, but it’s a pretty good idea to have a backup plan until that happens.

2) I get lots of e-mails asking how much it costs to get published. Unless you are self-publishing or using a vanity publisher, you don’t pay to get published. They pay you. Same with agents. If an agent or a publisher asks you to pay them upfront, run away fast.

3) Writing is 99% talent. Like anything, talent is important. Some people have great imaginations and a good ear for character voices. That does help a lot. And I won’t lie; there are probably a lot of people who, no matter how hard they practice will never be able to write a really good book. But most people who like reading and writing can become proficient writers by doing what you have to do with any talent—studying and practicing.

4) Tied to number three, for some reason most people think that their first attempt at writing a book is going to be a bestseller. While there are a few writers who published the first thing they wrote, most authors have to work long and hard before their books are good enough to sell. Be patient.

5) You have to write what is “hot.” Wouldn’t it be great if you knew exactly what the next big thing would be? You could write a vampire book just as Twilight was taking off. A middle grade fantasy when someone named Rowling was taking over the world. A dystopian two years ago. Sometimes you hit the right book at the right time. Maze Runner was fortunate to be coming to press when Hunger Games was going crazy. But the key is that I read the first draft of Maze Runner long before Hunger Games came out. The process of writing, selling, and publishing, can easily be three years or more. So what was hot when you started may be old news by the time you go to sell it. Instead focus on a cool, unique concept that you love, and then write it well.

6) The last myth I’m going to bust is that you have to know someone to get published. Ultimately you will want an agent. And you will get assigned an editor. But you can get both of those by just writing a great story. Does it help to know agents and editors? Some. But mostly it just speeds up the process. If your writing stinks, it doesn’t matter who you know. And if your story is amazing, it will get picked out of the slush pile.

Have a great weekend and keep writing!


Tamara Hart Heiner said...

great comments!

on the 'writing what's hot' thing--you can also have the bad luck to write vampires when everyone else is writing vampires, and then suddenly no one wants vampires when you finish w/ your book. Not that that happened to me. At least not w/ vampires.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

I can't believe I never thought to see if you have a blog! My son and I are HUGE fans. Thanks so much for your comment on my blog - you made my day. :-)

David Glenn said...

Thanks for clearing up those myths.

Jennifer Griffith said...

Love this song. Great song. Such a great song. And good points on the writing myths, too. So true!

J Scott Savage said...


Very true. Writing what is hot now, can make you writing what's overdone tomorrow. Of course if it is amazing, it might not matter.


You're so welcome. And again, THANK YOU for the review!


Myth, myth. Yeth?


I know! Best thing about doing retro Friday is remembering fun songs.

Anonymous said...

"Probably the biggest myth about writing..."

Are you not writing full time?